BOSTON - With David Backes out of the lineup, the Bruins are missing some abrasiveness, as head coach Bruce Cassidy termed it on Thursday morning.
The absence of that grit, strength, and power has thus opened up an opportunity for another Bruins winger. Matt Beleskey, who has been a healthy scratch for the last three games, will return on Thursday night against the Vegas Golden Knights as he tries to reestablish his spot in Boston's lineup.
"He's worked hard. He's been in and out. He's gonna get an opportunity to get back in and we'll see where his minutes go," said Cassidy. "We'd like to have a guy that can fill some of that [Backes] role. What does that mean, a big body?
"Well, it means applying pressure on your defense, knowing that if they're gonna come out of their zone they're gonna have to go through bodies. It means in the defensive zone getting in and clogging up lanes, winning your board battles and being a little bit abrasive so that they know someone is breathing down their neck."
When Beleskey has been in the lineup this season - he's played in six games without a point - he's been slotted in mostly a bottom-six role, where creating energy and providing some grit is expected.
"He does have size, especially with Backes out now he can add a dimensions of abrasiveness that we miss when he goes out," said Cassidy. "I think he's in a good frame of mind for the most part."
Beleskey concurred. The winger said that during his time out of the lineup he has focused on keeping the mental part of his game in check.
"You've just got to play your game and play it hard. Play with confidence," said Beleskey, who skated alongside Sean Kuraly and Frank Vatrano during Wednesday's practice. "That's the hard part of being in and out of the lineup is not getting much ice, keeping your confidence up.
"You've got to be mentally strong and I think I've done a decent job of that so far. Tonight, just gotta go out there, play with that confidence and play hard."
The Bruins are welcoming the Golden Knights to Boston Thursday night for the teams' inaugural matchup at TD Garden. Vegas, which has lost two straight games, took the first matchup between the teams, 3-1, on Oct. 15 at T-Mobile Arena.
"They're a tough team to play against…a big, fast team," said Torey Krug. "I think that's the mentality they're trying to have every night. They go out there with a group of guys that's tough to play against. We gotta make sure that we have a big pushback, especially early in this game and push them back on their heels and hopefully use our home-ice advantage."
Szwarz In; Czarnik Recalled
Jordan Szwarz, recalled from Providence on an emergency basis on Wednesday, will be in the lineup, according to Cassidy. He was the center between Danton Heinen and Anders Bjork during Wednesday's practice.
Austin Czarnik was also recalled from Providence on an emergency basis on Thursday after Backes was placed on injured reserve (colon surgery). Czarnik was termed as a game-time decision by Cassidy.
Czarnik leads Providence with 10 points (four goals, six assists) in five games this season.
Krug Sheds Shield
Krug took part in Thursday's optional morning skate without the chin guard that he has donned since returning from a broken jaw in the season's second game. The blue liner said he did not believe the apparatus hindered his game in any way, but would see after Thursday's contest if he noticed any differences.
"I don't know. Once I get into some battles tonight I'll have a better answer for you," said Krug. "I didn't think anything in particular when I had it on was an issue. That might change tonight once I get in a few shifts, a few battle in the corners and seeing pucks in my feet, things like that. We'll see what feels different."
Pastrnak Jumps Up
With injuries ravaging the Bruins lineup, David Pastrnak has been reunited with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand on Boston's top line. For much of last season, the trio was one of the league's best combinations and will be relied upon now to take on a heavy load of the Bruins' offense.
"For me it doesn't matter who I play with, I'm trying to do my best and trying to always get the offensive stuff going," said Pastrnak. "Every time I come to that line, we don't talk about anything, just to get the job done. That's all we talk about, the three of us.
"We never say, 'Let's go score goals.' Just about getting the job done. That's all we're focusing on."